Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb linked bad unemployment figures to fears about the UK leaving the EU, speaking to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire TV show on Wednesday morning. Crabb said that some companies are holding back from investing in the UK because of the upcoming EU referendum.
Figures released on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics show that unemployment in the UK grew by 21,000 between December 2015 and February 2016. On a year-to-year basis, there are now 142,000 fewer people unemployed in the UK than during the same period last year. Despite this, the unemployment rate remains unchanged at 5.1%, which is a record low in percentage terms.
Derbyshire asked Crabb if he thinks there is a link between “these new figures and anxiety, worries, uncertainty about leaving the European Union.”
Crabb responded: “Yes I do…there will be companies right now today who have been looking into major investments into the UK who are hanging back and considering whether that’s the right thing to do — of course that will have an impact.”
Later in the interview, Crabb caveated his comments, saying the 21,000 increase in unemployment isn’t a “direct result” of Brexit fears, but rather “an example of the really gritty questions that those people who say that Britain should leave the single market” need to respond to.
Downing Street hasn’t confirmed to Business Insider whether it agrees with Crabb that fears over Brexit are linked to the unemployment figures. But BBC News assistant political editor Norman Smith said in a Tweet that Labour is describing the jobless figures as “a foretaste” of what would happen after a Brexit.
The official Leave campaign group Vote Leave has called Crabb’s claims “laughable.”